The Sarabite: Towards an Aesthetic Christianity

There is a continuous attraction, beginning with God, going to the world, and ending at last with God, an attraction which returns to the same place where it began as though in a kind of circle. -Marsilio Ficino

Monday, October 01, 2007

Just Thought This Was Interesting


Religion has very little to do with “belief”; it is an indivisible package of aesthetics, ethics, social-emotional commitments, and transmission of κηρύγμα, a set of customs and rituals inherited from the elders. Indeed the complication of “belief” is mostly a Western Christianity type of constructed problems, and a modern one at that: ask an Eastern Orthodox monk “what he believes”, and he will be puzzled: he would tell you what he practices. [I discussed the “amin” in an earlier note]. Orthodoxy is principally liturgy, fasting, practices, and tradition; it is an ornate religion that focuses on aesthetics and requires a very strong commitment. “Belief” is meaningless; practice is real. What we now translate by “veneration”, προσκυνει is literally bowing down to the ground a very physical act...

-Nassim Nicholas Taleb

tip to Visibilum

12 Comments:

At 11:30 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

Eastern Orthodoxy is beautiful

 
At 9:22 AM, Blogger matt said...

I think if you asked an Eastern monk what he believes, he would probably respond with the Nicene Creed...

 
At 10:06 AM, Blogger Patrick said...

Yes, but if you ask the monk why he practices what he does, I'd expect you to get some answer which affirms or presupposes belief.

It may be a Western fault to have the belief on one's mind all the time- the Eastern way may be healthier- but to not think about it much doesn't make the question of belief disappear.

 
At 11:56 AM, Blogger Pseudo-Iamblichus said...

True enough, a monk would recite the Nicene Creed if asked what he belived. (It helps that in the Byzantine office, the Nicene Creed is recited three times a day, not including the Divine Liturgy.)

However, in Orthodoxy, there is no concept of "Magisterium", for better or for worse. You cannot easily separate belief from praxis, as one can supposedly do in Roman Catholicism. This is due of course to the de-centralization of Orthodoxy, and we can argue 'til the cows come home if this is a good or bad thing. Even Ecumenical Councils are commemorated liturgically in Orthodoxy. Imagine a feast of the Council of Trent? Or of Vatican II? (Sorry, I still think I would stay home for that last one...)

This of course has allowed Roman Catholicism to evolve as it has. One could argue that the idea of "rites" of the Church is a very Latin idea that leads directly to the Pauline Missal of 1970. It doesn't really matter if you are singing the Liturgy of St. John Chrysostom, the Syrian Qurbana, the traditional Roman Mass, or a Neo-Cathechumenal get-together around a table... as long as the "Magisterium" is respected. This is still profoundly unsettling to me. It speaks much of the Cartesian ghostly schism betweem mind and heart, body and soul, reason and the senses. It assumes some ghostly atmosphere where we all meet, regardless if we are singing Byzatine chant, playing an organ or hitting a tamborine.

In my mind, I know that the latter is probably the case, but it still is a bit hard to swallow.

 
At 10:32 PM, Anonymous Michael said...

Perhaps it is healthy that the Universal (Catholic) church can have Syrian Qurbana, Byzantine Greek Chant, Latin Gregorian Chant--yet all be part of the same Church and the same substantive theology defined by the Magisterium. So Orthodoxy is necessary while Orthopraxy can have many different forms.

Also, to stay home for Vatican II is not wise as, whatever liturgical and other abuses--and not to minimize them--the issues of religious liberty, to recognize and encourage eastern (slavic, middle eastern) spirituality and separate liturgy, the role of the laity (which encourages good groups like Opus Dei), and although much maligned by many Traditionalists--concepts like freedom, liberty, and individual rights and human dignity--are not bad words.

 
At 1:35 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

As Father Stephen Freeman once memorably said - 95% of Orthodoxy is just showing up and getting on with it.

 
At 3:49 PM, Blogger Tawser said...

Vatican II was much like the French Revolution. It wasn't really responsible for any of the good attributed to it, but it was very responsible for all of the evil. You didn't need to destroy the Roman Rite to encourage lay spirituality, and in any case Opus Dei predated Vat II by several decades. And I still think the Syllabus of Errors is a far wiser and more Catholic document than the sickeningly Kennedyesque Gaudium et Spes.

 
At 2:14 PM, Blogger Albion Land said...

I am curious about what church you are showing in the photo. It looks a bit like the church at the Decani Serbian Orthodox monastery in Kosovo, where I hope to be spending a weekend next month.

 
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